ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – In court on Friday, jurors heard directly from the man on trial for the first time.
They watched the video as Stephen Casaus tried to explain the death of his 9-year-old stepson.
Albuquerque Police interviewed Casaus for about three hours overnight after 9-year-old Omaree Varela died on December 27, 2013.
They said he told them at least three different stories about what happened.
First, Stephen Casaus told police he was at a friend’s house when Omaree got hurt.
His story didn’t add up.
“So what actually happened today?” the detective asked.
“I wasn’t in the room when it happened. I was in the restroom,” he said, suddenly admitting he was at home and that he heard stumbles in another room.
He said it sounded like Omaree and his mother, Synthia Varela-Casaus, were “wrestling.”
“I just heard Omaree saying, ‘I’m sorry, mom. I’m sorry. I’ll stop. I’ll be good. I’ll be good,’” Casaus said.
He told detectives what may have sparked the argument.
“I think because maybe he peed on himself, and she found out that he was trying to lie to her because he does that a lot,” Casaus said.
Doctors said Omaree died of blunt force trauma to his stomach, giving him about an hour to get to a hospital before his chances of surviving dramatically dropped.
“That hour is very crucial,” said Odey Ukpo, a forensic pathologist.
The defense argued that the internal injuries may not have been obvious.
“Children can appear okay and then suddenly drop precipitously,” Ukpo testified in court.
Still, witness testimony shows no one called 911 for at least an hour after Omaree got hurt. It was something that even came as a surprise to Casaus when police brought it to his attention.
“Are you serious? I don’t even know. I must have lost track of time then,” Casaus said.
However, Casaus never called police. His wife did.
Detectives pressed the issue.
“I really thought that the kid was just playing around at first,” Casaus told police.
Later, he gave a different answer to the same question of why he didn’t call 911.
“Cause I didn’t know where the phones were at,” Casaus said.
He eventually admitted he was scared and didn’t want anybody to get in trouble.
Police also asked Casaus about his swollen hands, asking if he punched something.
“No, my hands are fine. My hands are fine,” he assured the detective.
About a half hour later, unprovoked, Casaus brought up his hands again, saying the truth is they are swollen because he did heroin.
In fact, he did it, he said, when Omaree suffered his deadly injuries.
“It was uh… this morning actually when I was in the bathroom,” Casaus said.
The defense emphasized that after all of that, officers escorted Casaus out that day without arresting him, like they arrested his wife, Synthia Varela-Casaus.
Prosecutors said they finished with their witnesses this week.
The trial will resume Tuesday afternoon.